Unwanted facial and body hair is a common problem, generating a high level of interest for treatment innovations. Advances in laser technology over the past several years has led to the development and distribution of numerous red and infrared lasers and light sources to address this issue. Despite the impressive clinical results that have been reported with the use of individual laser hair removal systems, long-term comparative studies have been scarce.
To compare the clinical and histologic efficacy, side effect profile, and long-term hair reduction of long-pulsed diode and long-pulsed alexandrite laser systems.
Twenty women with Fitzpatrick skin types I-IV and dark terminal hair underwent three monthly laser-assisted hair removal sessions with a long-pulsed alexandrite laser (755 nm, 2-msec pulse, 10 mm spot) and a long-pulsed diode laser (800 nm, 12.5 msec or 25 msec, 9 mm spot). Axillary areas were randomly assigned to receive treatment using each laser system at either 25 J/cm2 or 40 J/cm2. Follow-up manual hair counts and photographs of each area were obtained at each of the three treatment visits and at 1, 3, and 6 months after the final laser session. Histologic specimens were obtained at baseline, immediately after the initial laser treatment, and 1 and 6 months after the third treatment session.
After each laser treatment, hair counts were successively reduced and few patients found it necessary to shave the sparsely regrown hair. Optimal clinical response was achieved 1 month after the second laser treatment, regardless of the laser system or fluence used. Six months after the third and final treatment, prolonged clinical hair reduction was observed with no significant differences between the laser systems and fluences used. Histologic tissue changes supported the clinical responses observed with evidence of initial follicular injury followed by slow follicular regeneration. Side effects, including treatment pain and vesiculation, were rare after treatment with either laser system, but were observed more frequently with the long-pulsed diode system at the higher fluence of 40 J/cm2.
Equivalent clinical and histologic responses were observed using a long-pulsed alexandrite and a long-pulsed diode laser for hair removal with minimal adverse sequelae. While long-term hair reduction can be obtained in most patients after a series of laser treatments, partial hair regrowth is typical within 6 months, suggesting the need for additional treatments to improve the rate of permanent hair removal.